C.E. CHAFFIN

 

At The Workshop

"Poetry must be true," the teacher said,
and so I had to resurrect the dead.

Someone I killed to make a stanza better
I must revive, or violate the letter

of the law of poetic verisimilitude,
where anything that isn't "real" is rude.

So I warned Coleridge, "You albatross!
Whatever isn't documentary is dross!"

Who wept and took his Ancient Mariner Doll
back to the Disney Store inside the mall

where he met Keats, and shared the interdiction:
"Whatever isn't real isn't poetry but fiction!"

Keats erupted in a Doc Holiday cough
and like a wounded gunslinger took off

his pens and pencils, and began to wail,
"I didn't really hear the nightingale."

Whereupon Sir Edmund Spenser did a jig,
proclaimed "The Faerie Queene was just a gig,"

while Shakespeare moaned, prey to the ultimate dread,
his works reduced to: "my second-best bed."

Poor Wordsworth looked like freshly cleavered sushi
when he realized he could have married Luci,

and Byron laughed to think Don Juan bored
by phony women when he could have scored!

I overheard Rimbaud say to Moliere:
"We should have written only what was there!"

Whereupon Moliere retorted to Rimbaud,
"Just 'cause it happened doesn't make it so."

And William Carlos Williams, finally happy,
congratulated Ginsberg like a pappy,

who threw an orange at T.S. Eliot,
and said, "You get these things at the supermarket."

Eliot wiped the juice from his lapel
and found the objective correlative for the smell:

flowery, acidic yet tangy-sweet,
he asked of Allen: "Why'd you throw a beet?"

When Browning saw his poems consigned to "fiction,"
he sent his favorite duchess an eviction,

and wrote instead about a whore he'd known
and how she could perpetuate a bone.

After which Homer, strumming on his lute
declared The Odyssey all but destitute

and Dante chimed in with this supplication:
"Oh purge me with the scourge of false purgation."

Yet my teacher was immune, dispassionate
to every argument, however I fashioned it

so I made a poem out of things that I'd collected
and glued them to a board, so when directed

to recite a poem I could point fingers,
since Williams said, "No ideas but in thingers."